EA’s $US15m In ‘Online Pass’ Revenue Isn’t A Failure

EA’s $US15m In ‘Online Pass’ Revenue Isn’t A Failure

In comments yesterday, Electronic Arts’ chief financial officer suggested that Online Pass — the program under which gamers who pick up a used copy of an EA Sports game typically shell out another $US10 to EA if they want to activate multiplayer for it — has netted the company in the realm of $US10 to $US15 million since it was introduced in June 2010. That’s a paltry sum to a publisher that size, but it doesn’t mean the program’s a failure.

For starters, it’s basically pure profit — “found money” as CFO Eric Brown calls it. But as I suggested yesterday, after a year under the program, Online Pass has probably done much to condition gamers to go ahead and buy a retail copy, even if its discounted, rather than pick up a used one.

That’s because it takes a hell of a long time to get a used title down to where it’s a bargain even with the $US10 Online Pass hit. The oldest game under the program, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is $US27 used at GameStop. The oldest game not superseded (or about to be) by another entry this year, EA Sports MMA is $US18, and that series is effectively on hiatus. That’s off-the-shelf, of course these titles are cheaper through resellers on half.com or Glyde, but the point is that waiting for value time means waiting for an out-of-date title.

So if the Online Pass is more of a deterrent than a product, that’s fine. EA Sports doesn’t even want you to buy it. “Season Ticket” holders get a 20 per cent deal on downloadable content, but the Online Pass isn’t eligible for the discount. Sure, “Season Ticket” holders are likely to buy new anyway, but the message is clear. EA wants its $US10 if you’re buying used.

Bottom line, you can forget about Online Pass going away if it doesn’t make EA much money. That sucker is here to stay.

EA Details Strong Digital Growth, Sims Social Numbers[Gamasutra]


    • thats a completely different situation, the code for PC is a ineffective waste of time drm solution, consoles have rather good drm and is not needed.

      Anyways thats around 1-1.5 million online passes sold. thats pretty good.

      I think what they should do is have it for 6 months the online pass is required then after that its removed.

      While i rather want the whole thing to go, i doubt that will happen. I play on pc, and there is no refunds, so i dont have his problem, but then we have horrendous drm solutions so when you think about it, the consoles gamers are getting a taste of pc gaming bile.

      • Its not a completely different situation as Boomzzilla was being hypothetical about the way in which console gaming is headed. The industry is going donwhill fast.

  • “Bottom line, you can forget about Online Pass going away if it doesn’t make EA much money. That sucker is here to stay.”

    Well it looks like i’m not going to be playing multiplayer anymore.

      • Yes it does because it prevents you from taking it to a friends or family members and playing unless you want them to buy the pass.

        • When taking a game over “to a friends house” do you really show them online?

          FIFA/Sports Games: It’s about the gameplay, 90% of the time, not what you can do online

          If it’s a multiplayer game like COD, it can be easily emulated with the training bots.

    • And publishers won’t care one bit because your not one of there customers if your buying used games. The only way to rid of the online pass is to fix the used game system.

      • I’m sorry you think that way. I’ll remind myself to never desire to spend money on a certain publishers/developers future games due to experiences with a used version of their past work. Since I’m not their customer.

        I’ll show myself out of friends houses when they want to play a game or watch a movie, because I’m not a customer.

        Maybe I should never window shop, because I’m not a customer.

        Actually come to think of it, I don’t mind not being a customer… I’d prefer to be a consumer, a fan, a follower, or whatever name you’d give someone who has decided to view your work over someone elses.

        • How very nice.
          Still doesn’t put any money into the hands of those who make the games you consume with such enjoyment so why would they care about you?

  • The moneys in DLC, so no companies need online passes, its just greed really. But I do agree that companies should get a piece of the used games market as they created the games in the first place, some sort of royalty based system or something, or why don’t Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have their own retail stores like Apple – that’d be great I reckon!

  • Buying a online pass is not bad at all.

    If you buy the game second hand you have picked up the game very cheap anyway so what is a extra 10 buks to the already cheap game?

    Second hand copies of game’s hurts the gaming industry I have no problem with them doing this to get back at rip off retailers!

    • Whats your defintion of very cheap since stores like ebgames sell second hand games for about $5 cheaper than the original. eg. call of duty black ops $114.95 etc

    • If its to get back at retailers why hurt the consumers and not punish the stores with some other prevention method such as not allowing them stock unless they get a cut of profits etc. A move like that wont hurt non seoncd hand retailers and the publisher also has the option of digitial sales. These passes only hurt the consumer and take another liberty we once had away. Whats going to be removed next?

  • This wouldn’t work on PC as demonstrated in this five step process:

    Step 1: Torrent game
    Step 2: Buy $10 online pass
    Step 3: Legitimise game
    Step 4: ???
    Step 5: Profit?

    • i dont know how pirating games work on the consoles, but for ps3 you cant go online without being perma banned by the forced system updates and i dont know about xbox.

      so your what appears to be a clever plan isn’t perfect.

  • EA’s online pass is what made me get Mass Effect 2 used as opposed to new.

    I’m all for this practice – it allows developers to get some of the cash that they would have gotten had their game not been resold, plus as the article mentioned it’s a deterrent against second-hand sales.

    I’d just prefer it if the online pass were cheaper – a lot of people are conditioned to think “single figures good, double figures bad”.

  • I still don’t see why games should have any more right to revenue from used sales than anything else in the world.

    Books, Cars, Computers.. you name it. None of the manufacturers/publishers/developers of those get any kind of revenue stream from used sales.

    You bought the game, the publisher has their money.. end of story.

    • I’m divided on this; on one hand they should be less entitled to proceeds from second-hand sales because with a book you don’t have to worry about emulating virtual ten year old hardware to be able to read it, but on the other hand they should be more entitled due to the extremely rapid turnover of second-hand games so early in the product’s lifespan.

      Either way I don’t like the online pass idea because when it comes to things like server activated DLC, it might not actually be there at a point for new or second-hand games alike! (eg. Burnout Paradise on PC, Mercenaries 2 on all platforms, any games past a certain age where conflicting ownership rights prevent them from being able to be made available at all…)

  • i wonder how many people as a result have been turned off a series or never ended up getting into a series because of it. wonder if the revenue lost from what i propose is larger than what they gained.

  • Personally i have always supported Project $10 – i think that the developers/publishers should at least get $10 out of a used game sale since they aren’t getting anything else out of it but at the same time i can see where peoples frustrations are with it. Personally i have only ever bought four used games in my entire life – 2 on the SNES and 2 for the original XBOX so it dosen’t really effect me but i know a lot of friends who ALWAYS buyed used to save $5-10 and now they simply can’t do that because it would cost more to buy used + online then to simply buy it new.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!